Textile Workers Industrial Union

The Natal branch of the Textile Workers Industrial Union (TWIU) was central to the activity based at Bolton Hall. This majority Indian union was one of SACTU’s strongest affiliates.  The parallel African union, after the banning of its key organisers in the 1960s, had stopped functioning.

Harriet officially took up the position of Secretary of the TWIU in late 1972 after the former secretary, Ambrose Reddy, was fired by the union. She was approached by the union’s national leader, Norman Daniels, to assist in reorganising the branch.

By August 1972, David Hemson was working as a full-time organiser and education officer of the TWIU. In January 1973, shortly after Harriet took over the Natal branch, the paid-up membership figure stood at around 400 workers, this more than doubled to 988 workers by May that year.

From 1971, workers were encouraged to get involved with drawing up demands for a new agreement. They called for a 60 percent increase over three years, and major improvements in working conditions, including paid public holidays and reduced working hours.

When Hemson left to join the GWU in Johannesburg, Halton Cheadle, David Davis and Omar Badsha were employed as organisers in the TWIU. They also assisted in the administration of the GFWBF.

The organising of African textile workers was largely due to the efforts of around 10 textile worker leaders who lost their jobs due to the strikes and were employed by the GFWBF and the TWIU.

In early 1974, after the banning of the Bolton Hall Four, Johnny Copelyn took over as General Secretary of the newly established TWIU which included African workers.  

Last updated : 03-Feb-2014

This article was produced for South African History Online on 03-Feb-2014